Jesus loves you. Not like a lover. Like a Father. His Father used Him, the Word of God, to speak all things into existence. All things were made through Him, and apart from Him nothing was made that was made (John 1:1-3). He loves you. Because He made you. Get those twisted romantic notions of love that our world pours down your throat out of your head and heart! Jesus is not your boyfriend. He loves like you like a Father! He will do anything for you. He will suffer all to save you. He looks at you and sees that infant child who captured His heart the moment you were born.
Men. You are given a mighty responsibility. The way you love your wife and kids fashions the lense of how they will understand God’s love for them. Your faithfulness is a blessed thing. Your calling is a holy one given you by God, to shower His love upon His beloved children. Your failures require repentance for they impact eternal destinies.
Ladies you’ve been given an impossible task. To love and make up where men have failed you and your children. You do it admirably. But it isn’t fair. Many of you have good men. Loving men. They try to do right by you. But so many of those men are not the spiritual heads of your household that God made them to be. That’s not fair. It has terrible impacts. It impacts your kids. You see it when you see your kids wander from the faith you tried to instill in them. You see it when if your grown kids have faith at all, it is often weak, for it is not rooted in the worship life of the Church. It is disconnected from the means of salvation that God has given: His preached Word and Sacraments. This is the plight of our day. We are reaping the harvest of generations of men not being men. Churches have emptied of men, and of the young in general.
Now, every generation complains about the young, convinced that the next generation coming up will be the end of civilization. Aren’t we all convinced of that these days? Whether we are right or wrong (as so many generations have been wrong before us), if there is a problem, look to the fathers. You fathers and grandfather who are here, good! God bless you. But at the same time, I can’t let you off the hook. Eternal destinies depend on it! Repent of your failings. And ask for strength to be the men you are called to be. Strength to set the example you should in all things. And rest in the grace of your loving Father who has sent His Son to save you. But this is something we should be praying about church. For Godly fathers.
And though I’ve given it to the men, I can’t leave it only at their door. Women, you married these men. Good men or not. You chose men who were less than you knew God required of you and them. Repent and pray for your men, as I know you probably already do.
Now let’s ponder Fatherhood. A father’s love is different than a mother’s. Mothers tend to want to protect their children from all harm. Some would go so far as to rap them in bubble wrap to keep them safe. Fathers, on the other hand, want their kids to be bold, courageous, to try things. Fathers tend to think like this, “Go ahead, climb up that tall tower. If you fall off I’ll be there to wipe the blood away. Whether you triumph or not you will learn some valuable lessons, about your own limits, about safety, about what you are capable of. Conquer the world and take your lumps as you go.” Our world loves to paint fathers as bumbling fools who aren’t on top of it like moms are. They lose track of things, even of their kids. And sure sometimes we do. Sometimes that is because of our sinful failings. But sometimes it is because we are ok with our kids exploring things a mom might be more anxious about. After all, men tend to worry about very different things than women do. Moms sometimes encourage daughters to date. They may even get excited about and want to talk about boys with their girls. Fathers, almost universally, want to get out their guns or go buy them if they don’t have any.
Jesus loves you like a Father. He warns you of the risks of your behaviours. He sets you free to live your life. He seeks you out and picks up the pieces when you’ve crashed and burned. And He hunts down and destroys your enemies who would enslave or entrap you and makes all things right in your world.
Today’s Gospel He was being a Father. He was about to go away. He was about to die and return to His Father. So He strongly warns His kids, “let the reader understand!” He expected them to listen. And they did. In 70 A.D. when the Romans utterly destroyed Jerusalem, slaughtered its people, and tore down its temple the Christians were gone. They had seen the apostasy of their Jewish brothers in the temple. They had seen their unbelief as the abomination that causes desolation—that causes God to abandon His temple. They knew that God could abandon His temple because 40 years earlier the Son of the Father who inhabited that temple came and made one sacrifice for sin that put the need for all sacrifice in the temple to an end. He was the Lamb of God who took away sin of the entire world—both the living, and the dead, and the not yet born. The temple was no longer needed. Those who believed in Jesus who were still in Jerusalem saw the unbelief of their fellow Jews 40 years later. When the Roman armies descended on Jerusalem to hem them in (Luke 19:42-44), the Christians fled. Quickly. Not turning back. Not going to get things. They fled to the hills. To a town called Pella. It is recorded in history. They got out. Because Our Lord had warned them. They listened to their loving Father. His Word saved them. And notice more of His fatherly love in those verses. It is His fatherly love which caused Him to cut those days short. To minimize the suffering the Romans wanted to inflict for sake of His elect, His chosen ones, His beloved children. That’s what Fathers do. They do not delight in their kids suffering. They cut it short if they can. But they let kids go through it when there is a lesson they need to learn.
Those first eight verses today were literally for them. And for us that we might see His love. Of course, His temple now, is His Church. When we see false teaching, false prophets, false Christs arising within His Church we need to call it out. If they can not be dislodged, we must flee from them, and so save ourselves from the eternal destruction those vultures would rain down on us.
That’s what the last five verses are telling us. You’ve fled Jerusalem. No longer look to the Old Testament. God has provided for you in the mountains on Mount Calvary. There He has saved you from the death of sin. As a Father He still allows the calamities of life so that you learn from them, but He cuts them short once you’ve learned the lessons you need to learn. For He never delights in your suffering. He is your loving Father. He is the spitting image of His Father in Heaven. It is His Word that saves you. Don’t depart from it. Don’t look for new prophets, new messiahs. Don’t believe anyone who says Jesus has already come again, or some new messiah of God has arisen. That’s mark of false cult. Remember Waco, Texas in the 90s? David Koresh claimed to be Christ. But it isn’t always so obvious as that. You need to listen carefully to what any supposedly Christian preacher is saying. You need to test it against God’s Word. His Word saves you! But false prophets are vultures eager to pick the bones of the dead and dying. Don’t run after false prophets and false teachers who tell you what your itching ears want to hear. When some pastor has major worldly success selling books if we pay it any heed at all we should test what they say to see if they are actually teaching what God says, or if they are merely playing to our vanities. For we all know how hostile this world is becoming, and always has been, to God’s Word, and to our Saviour. When the world embraces a prophet we need to ask why and if they are indeed a prophet of Jesus.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. The world has always hated Jesus and always will. A God who could pardon and forgive the most evil of people, even Hitler, how does that sit with you? You don’t like it? Why? Because you secretly think you are not that bad a sinner. You think you are better, more saveable than that sort of sinner. Repent. There is nothing worth saving in you. You are only saved because God is your Father two times over. First, He created you. Second, He redeemed you with the blood of His Son. You parents know how you would move heaven and earth for your children if you could. He does that for you, not because of any merit or worthiness in you, but because He loves you like a Father.
So Jesus warns us. Don’t go out searching for Him in far off places. He can be found in your church, if there is faithful preaching of His Word and the administration of His Sacraments according to His Word. Nor can you look inside your house or your heart for Him. Instead of Him, you will find only your own misperceptions, your own feelings, and your own thoughts. He always comes from outside you into you (through His means of salvation). This is His warning to us who live in these Last Days. Wherever there is a dying, hurting soul, false preachers will always descend like the vultures they are. Instead, read His Word. Hear His Word preached by the prophet He has sent to you. Feed your body and soul His body and blood. Receive His salvation by these things. And listen to Him, your loving Father, who will save you by His Word and has already moved heaven and earth for every time you haven’t listened to Him.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18